Administrating justice

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By Christine L. Mobley

Legal News

By increasing its membership, the Association of Legal Administrators -Metropolitan Detroit Chapter (ALA) expects to strengthen the legal community it serves.

The ALA provides support to professionals involved in the management of law firms, corporate legal departments, and government legal agencies.

The ALA's mission "is to improve the quality of management in legal services organizations; promote and enhance the competence and professionalism of legal administrators as well as members of the management team; and, represent professional legal management and managers to the legal community and community at large."

"More importantly is what we bring back to our offices," Denise Doherty, ALA president and executive director at Somers Schwartz, notes of the benefits of ALA membership. "There's an educational process, there's networking, and there is so much you bring back to your firm."

Doherty notes that the local chapter of ALA currently has about 90 members. The local chapter is part of a larger, national Association of Legal Administrators which is beneficial for members because, according to www.alanet.org (the national association's Web site), it offers opportunities for:

* Knowledge sharing and networking opportunities (locally, regionally, nationally and internationally).

* Professional recognition.

* Chapter and leadership support (substantive educational tools, idea exchanges and workshops to educate chapter leaders).

* A whole host of resources and opportunities for professional development (which can also be found at www.alanet.org).

Additionally, through ALA's relationships with a multitude of various vendors, ALA members can receive discounts on anything from office supplies to electronics to car and home insurance.

While lawyers usually have no problem with their administrators joining the organization, Doherty contends that lawyers may also benefit from ALA's meetings and are more than welcome to attend a meeting at no charge.

ALA meetings cover office management topics ranging from finance to marketing and records management to human resource management, information technology, diversity, and other subjects relevant to effective legal management.

A recent ALA meeting topic was "Records and Document Management."

"This was a great topic and it was very well received," Lyn Calu, ALA vice president/president-elect and office manager at Bowman and Brooke, said. "As a matter of fact, some of our members brought some of their staff with them that work in the records management section in their firms.

"It's not only the members who benefit," Calu points out. "There's someone in your firm that will benefit on any given topic and we invite (members) to bring them along as a guest because we want to help the firms in any way that we can."

ALA also does community outreach projects. In October 2009, in addition to donations, members visited and helped out at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit. According to Lois Martin, ALA treasurer-elect and outreach chair and Support Staff manager at Secrest Wardle, this year's project will be Ronald McDonald House.

There are other events that members can participate in as well, such as the annual holiday party and conferences. Membership not only offers education and social interaction, it also gives access to the ALA listserv where questions can be asked and answered to find out how other firms in the Detroit area deal with a particular situation.

Doherty, Calu and Martin all value their ALA membership and agree that others could share similar benefits. They all expressed appreciation to their respective law firms for supporting their membership in the ALA.

"ALA has helped me grow in my profession," Doherty says. "You get to a point that school -- a structured class -- could never give you the insight into managing an office and a sense of all that you have to deal with because you wear multiple hats.

"Part of ALA is you learn everything from marketing to financial. It's helped me grow in a way that no classes could ever take me to the level where I'm at now." Doherty said.

"Professionally, I feel I've grown more in the period of time I've been involved in the ALA than I have in the years prior," Calu notes. "There is so much to gain."

To learn more about the Association of Legal Administrators - Metropolitan Detroit Chapter or how to become a member, visit www.aladetroit.org.

Published: Mon, Feb 22, 2010